On April 22, 2010, Earth Day brought the official opening of some of the more interesting trail amenities we've seen along the Fairfield Heritage Trail in Lancaster, Ohio. Adjacent to the trail is the campus of Forest Rose School, a Fairfield County Board of Developmental Disabilities (FCBDD) facility that provides special needs children with educational and life skills opportunities from birth to age 22. Where the trail meets the school, the Lancaster Sensory Trail has taken shape.
The idea behind the trail was to build an outdoor experience, easily accessible for the students, that would stimulate and engage their senses. The first phase of the project, now open, includes items such as herb pots, fragrant flowers and bushes, bird feeders and houses, native trees, grasses and art pieces. A local Lions Club also installed a rough bark tactile display that includes Braille interpretation. Also installed are six large, permanently mounted outdoor musical instruments that have been custom designed with their own tethered mallets. The entire trail is wheelchair accessible.
The project has been a multi-agency collaboration since its beginnings in 2008. Spearheaded by FCBDD, other agencies integral in its success include Fairfield County Soil & Water Conservation District, U.S. Natural Resource Conservation Service, city of Lancaster, Southeast Ohio Center for Independent Living and the Heart of Ohio Resource Conservation and Development Council. Major additional funds were raised through in-kind local volunteer efforts as well as two successful 5K running events. The innovative project was so impressive that it was awarded the 2009 Project of the Year award by the North Central Association of Resource Conservation and Development Councils.
While phase one has been an enormous success, the group is not resting on its laurels and has an ambitious plan for expanding the Sensory Trail. Future additions are to include a bridge over the nearby creek, wetland restoration as well as a wheelchair-accessible treehouse! As one very early supporter of the Fairfield Heritage Trail noted, it's amazing to see the types of innovative community-based projects that seem to sprout off of a seemingly simple rail-trail.
Photo: Musical equipment along the Lancaster Sensory Trail. Photo by Bob Williams, Fairfield Heritage Trail Association.
I am a project manager for the Fairfax County Park Authority in Fairfax, VA. We are looking to design and install a sensory trail in one of our parks and I am wondering if the Lanscaster Sensory Trail you have installed is located in a managed park with onsite staff to take care of the trail? We are looking to put a similar trail in an unmanaged park and would like to hear what your experience is in terms of maintenance / vandalism etc. Thank you for your help.
Please contact me directly about this project:
The Duke Ellington Building
2121 Ward Ct., NW
Washington, DC 20037